February 18, 2009 issue

Greater Toronto

TSH medical team achieves a 'first'
Life Savers: The volunteer medical team from The Scarborough Hospital on visit to Guyana, from left, Drs. Aroon Yusuf, Narayanan Nandagopal, Tim Sproule and Stanley Tam.

Toronto — Physicians from The Scarborough Hospital (TSH) are heralded with performing a ‘first’ while recently volunteering their time and skills in Guyana.
The four physicians – Drs. Tim Sproule, Narayanan Nandagopal, Aroon Yusuf and Stanley Tam – offered their clinical skills for medical procedures and to train and educate at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation. The team presented a series of CME lectures while there. They also spent considerable time at a burn unit co-founded several years ago by Dr. Sproule.
“We lucked into having a perfect case, a 29-year old man who was healthy otherwise, but because of severe burns to his left knee, was looking to have his leg amputated,” Dr. Sproule said. “We didn’t have a lot of resources, but we had just enough. I brought microsurgical instruments I recently purchased from The Scarborough Hospital and a box of micro-sutures.”
The procedure involved the microsurgical transfer of tissues, muscles and vessels from the patient’s abdomen to an exposed area on his knee.
“Doing a first in Guyana like that I think perked up a few ears down there, and is something that we can use as a springboard to help us with other things we want to do,” explains Dr. Sproule. The group worked under the auspices of the Canadian Reconstructive Surgery Foundation, a charity that offers plastic surgery expertise to under-serviced countries around the world.
While this wasn’t his first trip to Guyana, Dr. Sproule says it was his best.
“I’ve been on some really great trips to Guyana and elsewhere, but the way our team worked together and with the local medical staff, I think we had a tremendous impact,” he explains. “But I think the most important thing we did was develop a structure on how we can move forward with ongoing support in both education and the burn unit itself.”
This was the first trip to Guyana by the other three physicians, who each state they came away with a new appreciation for what they can accomplish as a team.
“We were able to achieve a lot more than we thought was possible,” says Dr. Nandagopal, a plastic surgeon. “The major impact we had on that country was to showcase that they can raise the level and quality of their primary
care. In fact, Guyana’s Minister of Health wants us to go back every two months. It was a very proud moment for Canada, and for The Scarborough Hospital.”
In fact, Dr. Nandagopal says he made it a point to wear his Scarborough Hospital scrubs and ID whenever possible.
For Drs. Yusuf (plastic surgeon) and Tam (anaesthesiologist), the trip was a “real eye-opener.” “As much as we contributed, I think we learned a lot about ourselves and our capacity to work together under stressful situations,” says Dr. Yusuf.
“I was surprised that the facilities weren’t as backward as I thought they’d be,” explains Dr. Tam. “They had all the equipment to administer anaesthesia, but I was able to bring new devices for pain management.”
Dr. Tam was able to put those devices to use on a difficult intubation case, the best opportunity for local anaesthesiologists to learn how to use the equipment on a living patient.
“The patient had severe acid burns on his face and neck, and was unable to open his mouth very wide. That’s what made it such a difficult intubation,” Dr. Tam adds. “But the outcome went very well.”
In all, the physicians completed ten surgical procedures and treated over 80 patients. The team is planning another trip to Guyana in May.

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